The Department of the Interior has announced the first steps to redo the nation’s offshore drilling plan, which could open up new and sensitive areas to drilling across a wide swath of our oceans, including in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans.
Last year, the Obama administration finalized an offshore plan that covers the years from 2017-2022, and removed the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans from available oil and gas leasing. It also continued to keep the Pacific Ocean off-limits from leasing. Following this move, President Obama took action to permanently withdraw much of the Arctic Ocean and key areas of the Atlantic Ocean from leasing, but a recent executive order sought to undo this effort as well.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, an agency with the Department of the Interior, published a Request for Information last week, kicking off a 45-day comment period. Audubon will be submitting comments to provide a science-based case for protecting sensitive areas in our oceans and along our coasts.
Opening up areas in the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific would put at risk vast areas of ocean and coastal habitat. Countless birds and coastal communities and economies could be threatened from oil spills, and in the Arctic, there is no capacity to respond to a spill. Re-opening the plan also ignores the more than one million people and numerous communities and businesses who weighed in against expanded offshore drilling, which helped lead to a sensible path forward under the current plan.